Batman: Arkham Disappointment

I don't know about you, but I've always found certain elements of the plots of the Arkham games to be disappointing. All three games have excellent setups; unfortunately they never seem to be able to deliver on the intrigue promised by them.

[The following words, when placed in the following order, constitute SPOILERS for the Arkham series of games – view at your own peril!]

In the first game, Arkham Asylum, Joker allows himself to be taken to Arkham Asylum, proceeds to take the prison over, releases the prisoners and captures or kills several innocent civilians. Why did he do this? He wanted to find Bane, steal his formula for Venom and enhance it into the much more powerful Titan formula, so he can have an army of super strong mooks. At the end of the game, Joker even injects himself with the formula, becoming super strong and then getting instantly beaten by Batman in the final boss fight. So Joker's plan to outsmart Batman was to become physically stronger than him, and beat him in a single fist fight. Hasn't he realised that Batman has beaten Bane several times? Did Joker think that being a bit stronger would tip the edge in his favour? You can't use raw strength alone against someone like Batman, who plans ahead and will use every resource at his disposal to turn your strength against you.

Batman: Arkham Disappointment

BAM!

In Arkham City, Bruce Wayne allows himself to be taken into the super prison, Arkham City, so he can investigate what Hugo Strange is up to. Strange teases the existence of 'Protocol 10' and tells Wayne that not only does he know that Bruce Wayne is Batman, but that if Batman interferes with Protocol 10, he will reveal his identity to the world. Throughout the game, Strange is constantly announcing over the loudspeakers that Protocol 10 is only hours away, building and building the interest in what it is going to turn out to be. However, this just makes it more disappointing when Protocol 10 turns out to be a fancy name for 'killing all the inmates', and despite Batman's constant interference, Strange doesn't reveal his identity.

Why didn't Strange just murder the inmates one by one as they entered the prison? Or starve them to death, or just throw out a few machine guns and wait for them to kill each other? And if he's working for the League of Shadows/Assassins/Whatever, why bother building a super prison in the first place? Why not just let the unlimited army of ninjas at his disposal go around dispensing vigilante justice?

What I'm saying is that each of the games botch it right at the last hurdle. They don't have the reasoning or the justification for the premise they start out with, and in my eyes, they start to come apart at the seams. It's not enough to ruin the experience of either of the games though; it's just a little disappointing, like being told about a plot hole in your all-time favourite film.

Speaking of disappointment, let's talk about Arkham Origins.

Batman: Arkham Disappointment

Ack! Straight in the immersions!

In Arkham Origins, Black Mask has put $50 million on Batman's head and eight of the world's deadliest assassins have arrived in Gotham City to claim the money. Yet again, great premise, but the disappointment in this game comes a lot earlier than the other two. I expected the fights against the assassins to be a big deal, equal to something like Shadow of the Colossus; eight huge boss fights with very little in between, with the occasional side quest. I can tell you now that the game is nothing like that. Killer Croc is beaten in the first half an hour, easily. Electrocutioner and Deathstroke are beaten in the same room as each other, within a 45 minute period. Deadshot and Shiva are side missions. Most of them are defeated in a single hand to hand fight lasting less than five minutes, with the exception of Firefly (a quick time event) and Bane (two five minute hand to hand fights, and a five minute stealth section).

I said above that you can't use raw strength against Batman because he plans ahead and will use every resource at his disposal to win. This doesn't make him undefeatable. The joke of Batman winning every fight "because he's Batman" seems to have finally made it into actual Batman canon. I expected eight challenging boss fights. In fact, I expected Batman to lose a few of them and have a rematch later on, particularly with Deathstroke and Lady Shiva, but nope. Batman doesn't lose, and if Batman doesn't lose then he can't learn from his mistakes.

This is the biggest problem with Arkham Origins – the unnecessary-ness (?) of a prequel.

If Batman doesn't lose, then how is Penguin still running the same smuggling operation in Origins as he is in City? Didn't Batman manage to shut him down in six years? If the playable section of Gotham City in both games looks as bad six years ago in Origins as it does in the present in City, then does Batman have any impact on Gotham at all? If Batman is so effective, then why are criminals still taunting him as he flies around Arkham City? Why hasn't every criminal realised they can't win against him, and, I dunno, perhaps cleaned up or cleared out?

In Origins, Batman is meant to be only just starting out and not as skilled, yet he manages to beat Deathstroke and Lady Shiva, who are meant to be more than his equal, at least in hand to hand combat. Why does Batman need to get more skilled if he's already beaten the best?

Batman: Arkham Disappointment

Lady Shiva – master of the invisible sword technique.

The 'twist' in Arkham Origins is that Black Mask is Joker in disguise, and he had no intention of paying the money for the death of Batman. When Joker explains his to the remaining assassins, Bane and Electrocutioner, both of them are understandably a little pissed off about it. Just after this, Bane fires a rocket launcher at Joker, causing him to fall of the roof of a skyscraper. Batman dives of the roof and saves him.

This is the part I'm having the most trouble with.

Everyone that died that night was because of Joker. Batman walked through a hotel with about fifteen dead people killed by Joker, and still, Batman risks his life to save Joker. For the rest of the game, Batman overhears conversations between criminals and between cops, who express bewilderment at Batman diving off a building to save a multiple murderer.

And I'm right there with them. I don't believe in capital punishment. I don't believe in the death penalty. I also don't believe that Batman would risk his life to save Joker, especially when the only thing he knows about him is that he is an unrepentant, psychopathic murderer.

In the scene I mentioned above, where Joker explains to Bane and Electrocutioner about not paying them, Batman is watching the whole thing on CCTV. When Electrocutioner gets angry and tries to leave, Joker pushes him out of a window, directly above the atrium where Batman is standing. Batman doesn't lift a finger to save him, despite the fact that he can clearly see what is going to happen. Not only does he let him die, he actually steals Electrocutioner's shock gloves from his mangled corpse.

Batman: Arkham Disappointment

Pictured: mangled Electrocutioner corpse.

The Batman does not kill, but he'll steal shit from you after you're dead. Or he'll allow Scarecrow to get carried off by Killer Croc. Or let Ra's al Ghul stab Hugo Strange, or not save Ra's al Ghul as he falls from Wonder Tower. Or fail to save Talia al Ghul from Joker.

So if Batman is unwilling or unable to save any of these people, then why oh why does he save the Joker? Because Joker is alive in the sequels, that's why.

What do you think? Should Batman have saved the Joker? Do you prefer a Batman who theoretically won't let anyone die (but fails because of plot), or a more pragmatic Batman who won't kill you, but he "doesn't have to save you"?